So. Sorry to be such a negative premodern amidst all you postmoderns, but here I go, being feisty and contrarian.
(Love me anyways!!!!!!!!!)
DISCLAIMER: I really appreciate the practical side of what is happening here, and all my quibblies here are to do with language useage. (Surprised?)
Things I like about newmonasticism.org:
1. Evangelical Mennonites are living together in community.
2. They are committed to a Christian way of life together.
3. They are committed to spiritual disciplines.
4. They are practicing chastity.
My big problem:
They are calling it ‘monasticism’.
Why the hell don’t they just call it ‘being Christians like we were originally supposed to’?
I mean, if they are doing all of that, they are no different than, say, the people at the church I go to, except that these ‘neomonks’ all live in one big house.
AND…I found an article that said something I just absolutely despised.
The article is called ‘The New St. Benedict’ and it is by Ivan Kauffman.
First, let me say that I now despise the word ‘intentional’. It is used in this article like it really means something more than ‘purposeful’ as opposed to ‘by accident’ or ‘inadvertent’. BARF. What the heck separates an intentional community from any other community? All communities have aims, intentions, purposes, etc. ESPECIALLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES…so really, Qohelet, what is New under the sun here? Not a darn thing.
Now here I go with my atrocious citations. Attend!
When the monastic movement was founded by St. Anthony and the other
Egyptian monks some 1,700 years ago it was assumed that to live a fully
intentional Christian life one needed to abandon the world of work and
family and politics.
A better explanation is that the desert fathers chose the desert simply because it was EASIER to pursue a life of prayer without the distractions of social, economic and political existence. There was simply more time and space in the desert.
The vocation of constant prayer and monasticism, however, is not a more ‘intentional Christian life’. Paul certainly did not see it this way, and it is doubtful that many of the fathers saw it this way. Otherwise, marriage would not have been treated as a sacrament (like Holy Communion and Baptism), but rather as a distraction! Certainly Chrysostom’s treatise, On Marriage and Family Life, sees marriage as a high calling and a means of sanctification.
Which is why the contrasts below really piss me off!
The early monastic communities played an important role in converting the
European peoples to Christianity, and the later monastic communities created
many of our most important institutions.
But the success of that earlier period of Christian intentionality has now laid
the foundations for a new era of Christian intentionality—one in which
intentional Christians take their place in the ordinary life of work, family and
politics, rather than withdrawing from it.
It is now possible for intentional Christians to view their participation in
economic activities as a way to serve the world, as a means to achieve their
central calling as Christians.
It is now possible for intentional Christians to view their sexuality as a means
to bring love into the world.
It is now possible for intentional Christians to see their mission as
transforming human society by becoming involved in its political activities.
Oh. Really? Now? As opposed to when?
As opposed to a time when all the Christians who were busy in the public sphere felt like second-class Christians for being there? And were affirmed in this self-hatred by their spiritual fathers? That might describe medieval Catholicism, but it doesn’t map onto early monasticism very well, and certainly not early Christianity which was by its very nature public religion.
Anyhow I am done for now. I will see you all on Wednesday night. And I’m going to have a very stiff drink beforehand. Maybe you should too. That makes shouting at each other much more fun!